Mar 16, 2015


Note: This judgment has been appealed and the Court of Appeal has ordered a stay of execution thus restrictions still apply.

"When we dare to struggle, then we dare to win. I therefore urge all Nigerians to troop to the courts, to challenge the unchallengeables, to kick off the arbitrary PHCN impositions, all illegal charges and tax impositions and all obnoxious policies wickedly devised by all our rulers." – Mr Ebun Adegboruwa

If you have ever experienced having to move around on a Saturday morning when there is ongoing sanitation in Lagos, you will definitely like what I am about to share. I remember a Saturday morning after having arrived at the airport in Lagos, I set out for home with my cousin who had come to pick me and we had to abort our trip because armed mobile policemen had laid siege on the Oshodi express-way and were arresting those who did not stay home to observe the mandatory environmental sanitation.  Thank goodness for the touts who sheltered us behind a locked street gate, though we had to pay for the temporary security, they hid us from the policemen. 

Security operatives have always had a filled day on sanitation Saturdays, anyone caught on the road at such times was either required to pay a heavy fine or sometimes summarily taken before a mobile court and many people have fallen victim.  Now, what you will you do if I tell you that we have been hoodwinked by successive governments, that our government has been breaching our constitutional rights to freedom of movement by forcing us to stay home for 3 hours, once a month and that those who have been taken before mobile courts and punished have been sanctioned based on a law that does not exist. Well, it’s true. We have been cheated.

Today, a Federal High Court in Lagos ruled that the restriction of movement during the monthly environmental sanitation exercise in Lagos State is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void basically, it is totally wrong. So government has been punishing us for nothing. Honourable Justice Ibrahim Idris held in his verdict on 16th March, 2015 that the sanitation policy of the Lagos State Government where citizens are kept indoors for three hours every last Saturday in a month, is unknown to any law. His Lordship further said that there was no law in force in Lagos State, by which any citizen could be kept indoors at the behest of the government. His Lordship stated that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) grants freedom of movement to every citizen, and such freedom cannot be taken away by executive proclamation, in the absence of any law to that effect. Thus, there is no regulation in force presently, in Lagos State, which authorizes the restriction of movement of citizens, on the last Saturdays of the month, for the purpose of observing environmental sanitation.

Thanks to a Lagos lawyer, Mr.Ebun Adegboruwa who filed the suit. While arguing the matter, Adegboruwa had submitted that Section 39 of the Environmental Sanitation Law 2000, of Lagos State, which the respondents claimed empower the Commissioner for the Environment, to make regulations, could not be the basis of restricting human movement on Saturdays, as no regulation in force had indeed been made for that purpose. He challenged the Lagos State Government to produce such regulation before the court. Counsel further urged the court to hold that even if there was such regulation in force, it could not be enforced on roads that were designated as federal highways under the Highways Act, such as the 3rd Mainland bridge where he was arrested by the police and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) only if those guys knew they arrested the wrong person that day.

So I now look forward to driving on the next day designated for sanitation in Lagos knowing that the Court of Law has rescued me from such a draconian law. However, this does not mean we should not clean our neighbourhoods. Being neat and tidy and keeping our environments clean is mandatory for everyone, it keeps us safe from diseases.

Adedunmade Onibokun Esq